Reasons for Plotting and Carrying Out a Rebellion

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Beyond the court records, newspaper accounts and white eyewitness accounts, which reflect the views of those who feared and hated Nat Turner, very little is known about his life or his reasons for plotting and carrying out a rebellion. One possible exception was the Confessions of Nat Turner, written down by the attorney Thomas R. Gray after he interviewed Turner in jail. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that Gray was the disinherited son of a wealthy father who may well have secretly sympathized with Turner on some level. Turner's rebellion began with seven men who raided the farm of Joseph Travis and killed the entire family. Then the rebels travelled from house to house, killing every white person they encountered, until they were defeated in a skirmish and dispersed or captured. It lasted only a few days, and involved 60-80 slaves who killed 57-60 whites, while hundreds of slaves died in retaliation. White Southerners generally assumed that if slavery was ever abolished they would suffer the same fate as Turner's victims, and they blamed white and black abolitionists like David Walker, William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass for inspiring such revolts. They also regarded Turner as a fanatic and perhaps a madman, inspired by religious hallucinations, while to abolitionists he was a hero. Like Gabriel Prosser, Denmark Vesey and other slave rebels in Brazil and the West Indies, Turner was motivated in his goals and methods by religious, such as a war in heaven

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